Thursday, September 23, 2021

COVID-19: Charity homes seek help as support sources shrink

People with disabilities outside charity homes are also having their share of COVID-inspired difficulty.

• January 13, 2021
Cerebral Palsy (CP) awareness walk

The coronavirus disease has upended the lives of millions of people globally, and the communities of persons living with disabilities are not exempted from this big problem.

UNICEF says the COVID-19 disease has disrupted life in every aspect and corner of the world and will likely disproportionally affect those children with pre-existing vulnerabilities.

It stressed that “some underlying health conditions place children living with disabilities at higher risk for becoming infected with and developing severe illness as a result of COVID-19.”

The World Health Organization 2011 World Disability Report says about 15 percent of Nigeria’s population or at least 25 million persons are living with disability in Nigeria.

The initial emergence of COVID-19 in Nigeria did not ring an economic alarm but while people who had the means stock foods and provision did during the first lockdown, several others starved, struggling with a balance of two square meals per day.

Although Nigeria has since eased the lockdown, the economic stress created continues to affect the masses.

Most charity homes offer free services in Nigeria and depend on donations from well meaning individuals and organisations for their operations. These homes are now struggling to survive amidst the pandemic that has caused an economic meltdown globally.

Cerebral Palsy (CP) awareness walk

Cerebral Palsy Centre, Lagos is one of the hundreds of special homes globally hit by the pandemic. Children at the center are levels IV and V  of the gross motor function classification system of the disease.  

Children in the center depend solely on caregivers, and they usually undergo therapy. But since March, 2020, the kids have not had a therapy session.

Peoples Gazette learnt that delay in therapy may likely increase the case of an individual living with cerebral palsy.  Therapies are the mainstay for managing children with cerebral palsy. The disease is a congenital disorder of movement, muscle tone, or posture. It is caused by abnormal brain development, mostly before birth.

Since the establishment of the Center in 2010, services offered to children are free, Peoples Gazette understands. But, Nonye Nweke, founder of the center told the Gazette that COVID-19 has thinned out  expected donations.

Before COVID-19, the center cared for twenty children living with cerebral palsy, but currently, the center has only five kids.

Mrs. Nweke said many children have been at home due to the lockdown and staff were unable to have access to work which also compounded the challenge. She said observing social distance was also a challenge as caregivers need close contact to care for the kids.

“We are unable to ask all the staff to resume because of the risk of constant exposure to the virus. So, the advent of COVID-19 has made us realize that the “way to go” for the Center is to quickly complete our facility that will take in children into the boarding and have room for staff accommodation”, Ms. Nweke added.

She told the Gazette that the center urgently needs help to complete the facility under construction to enable the children and all the staff to return to function in full capacity.

Cheshire Home
Cheshire Home

In Rivers State, the case of the Port Harcourt Cheshire Home is no different. A home currently housing about 50 persons living with disabilities lacks food. 

Peoples Gazette learnt that over 200 persons have lived in the home, got scholarships and schooled within and outside Nigeria, and several others got married and left the home.

Before the advent of COVID-19 in Nigeria, Individuals, groups, and sometimes the government usually visit the home to donate gifts items such as food, beverages, among others but the emergence of COVID-19 has caused a bad time for the people.

Stella Gbobo, Matron in charge of the home said weeks to Yuletide, several individuals and groups usually donate gifts but, “a week to 2020 Christmas, nothing has happened, and 2 square meal a day has become difficult”, said Mrs. Gbobo, adding that “I am now thinking on how to get money and go to the market to buy food for dinner.”

Children with Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria, is an organization that takes care of children with down syndrome. The foundation runs a regular school calendar with boarding school.

The majority of the  services rendered are based on charity with little charges from parents to add-up to funds received from donors. The organization is also affected by the dreaded novel virus, COVID-19.

Senbanjo Aanu, Foundation Administrator told Peoples Gazette that the global pandemic stopped donors from donating to the center and free heart surgery conducted overseas on children with down syndrome could not be done, due to lack of funds and support from donors.

“We usually take more than 10 persons overseas for surgery on the heart per year, as four in each quarter but due to the COVID-19, we took only four persons with down syndrome in 2020. These are people who need help, the indigent ones”, Ms. Aanu added.

Before the spark of COVID-19, children in the foundation are assisted by caregivers but with the COVID-19, professionals and caregivers were trained to teach parents virtually on how to care for the kids and reteach the children what they have been taught.

The school management further appeal to the well-meaning Nigerians to support in cash and sponsor children with down syndrome.

People with disabilities outside charity homes are also having their share of difficulty inspired by COVID.

Gomina Dafidi, a Digital Marketing consultant, lost a job he was supposed to get, he told the Gazette.  He said, “I was supposed to relocate to Abuja and start my NYSC on April 2 but then COVID came and it was cancelled and I didn’t get a job as planned.”

Meanwhile, Pius Ledum Barikume, owner of the Pencil King Art studios has a different story about COVID-19. He said rather than COVID-19 being a setback, it became a setup.

As an artist, preceding the lockdown, he had two trainees but when the lockdown commenced, parents who needed to keep their kids busy, engaged his service to teach their children.

” We had about 35kids registered with us, and we had to group them into five; morning, afternoon, and evening sessions, and twice weekly. By December, the artists are certified and our art studio today is experiencing a turn around because of the pandemic”.

Mr. Pius told Peoples Gazette that despite the positive story, the pandemic still slows down patronage but also opened doors.

Iyowuna Obomanu, Rivers State Chairman of Joint National Association of Persons Living With Disability (PLWD) told Peoples Gazette that Nigeria has no policy of setting aside some special funds given to persons with disabilities, “all we can do is continue to appeal”

Mr. Obomanu said Rivers state for instance needs a board of PLWD as it obtains at the national level. He said they have continued to appeal to the government to set up a board in the state. 

He said there is a need for the government to establish a welfare fund where people and the government can donate funds to help cater for persons with disabilities.

He said, “The amount raised from the welfare will be allocated to different charity homes caring for special people and individuals living with disabilities with the help of a board of PLWD.”

This report is sponsored by PagedInitiative with support from FreePress Unlimited as part of the Media COVID-19 Response in Africa.

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